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The Best Sleep Mask: Choosing the Right One
Hey, aren’t eyelids great?
Maybe you’ve never really stopped to think about it before (we admit, it is a little weird), but it’s true — just think of what a great job they do clearing dust and debris from your eyes. They keep those baby blues moist, too.
And can you imagine trying to snooze without them?
But here’s the downside: as great as your eyelids are, they don’t fully block out the light. Don’t blame them, though — blame evolution. (That’s right, we said it.)
Light: the Arch Nemesis of Good Sleep
Electricity has just barely been in homes for over 100 years. And since then, the entire world has become a much brighter, 24-hour, always-on place.
Our poor eyelids? They just haven’t had a chance to catch up. Neither has the brain, which still has a difficult time distinguishing between natural and artificial light.
You would think the brain would at least be up to speed by now, but let’s not dwell on disappointing biological shortcomings.
Until evolution does catch up — by which point the world will probably be even brighter — you’ve got to find a way to block that intrusive light. Because even a minor amount can suppress your body’s production of melatonin — that’s the drowsiness hormone that keeps you sleeping soundly — by up to 36%.(1)
And since you’re committed to better sleep (we commend you for that, by the way), you may as well make it the best sleep possible — with the best sleep mask.
Before we tell you which sleep mask that is, though, we’ve got a little bit of bad news.
Sadly, It’s Not One and Done for Sleep Masks
We’d love to be able to just recommend a single sleep mask to you. Boom, done, everybody goes about their day.
Buuuuut… unfortunately, it’s just not that easy. The journey to better sleep is a very personal experience, and the eye mask that works for others may not work for you.
Maybe regulating temperature at night is difficult for you. Perhaps it’s allergy season and your eyes are extra-sensitive. You could be looking for a weighted mask to help with anxiety.
Or — we get it — maybe times are tough and you’re on a budget.
Your personal preference plays an important role in this decision as well.
Do you like the security-blanket feel of a snug eye mask, the kind you know isn’t going to come off if you’re doing some hardcore tossing and turning? Or do sleep masks bother you, so you’re looking for something featherlight that feels like you’re not wearing one at all?
Do you want one that heats, cools or helps to relieve anxiety through pressure or aromatherapy?
Choosing the best sleep mask for your individual needs is a major decision, especially considering that you want to protect those wonderful eyelids of yours. You also want to maximize the sleep mask benefits and make sure you get the best one for your needs. Not to worry — we’re right here to help you along the way by providing you with the information you need to choose the best sleep mask for your lifestyle.
But before we dive deep into the various options available out there, first let’s take a look at what goes into a great night of sleep.
What Makes the Best Sleep Mask?
Choosing a good sleep mask is easy — there are plenty of them on the market.
But a great sleep mask, one that gives you the best sleep night after night? The ride-or-die sleep mask that accompanies you when you travel?
Yeah, that one takes some special consideration. Here are some factors to ponder:
An Eye Mask That Provides Total Blackout
This is the whole point of the sleep mask: to make it dark. So you’re going to want something that doesn’t just block most of the light — you want to block 100% of it.
Otherwise, why even bother?
Total darkness doesn’t just help you fall asleep — it keeps you asleep. You run through complete sleep cycles several times as you slumber, and at the end of each is a shallow period. When you’re in this stage of sleep, you’re especially sensitive to any outside light and sound.
But a quality sleep mask will prevent you from waking, and that increases your overall sleep quality.
This is where a customized fit is also key. 100% light blocking is no good if that’s only when you’re lying on your back. Look for an eye mask that keeps the light when you’re in your favorite position.
Because really, sleep should be all about…
Comfort For Great Sleep Throughout
All that darkness also isn’t going to do you any good if your mask is too uncomfortable for you to sleep in. Not to mention you want one that doesn’t mash your eyelashes into your face.
Once you’re comfy you want to stay comfy, so that means you want solid straps holding your sleep mask in place rather than a thin band of elastic that you’d barely entrust to your underwear.
If you’ve got long hair, another important aspect to consider is that those straps are tangle-free. Nobody wants to spend the first part of their day untangling their hair from velcro.
Maximum comfort means allowing for your individual architecture. A custom fit won’t just keep out the light, it’ll make your mask feel like part of your face.
We didn’t want to be the ones to mention it, but your head is… a little different.
That’s OK, though — everybody’s is. One size never fits all; in fact, it often doesn’t fit most. Not well, anyway.
The more options you have to customize your fit, the better it will feel — and the better it will stay on. After all, your sleep mask won’t help you sleep if it’s floating among the pillows and sheets.
There’s another thing that might not be as obvious while you’re mask shopping with your empty bladder. You’re probably going to have to get up in the middle of the night to pee. And you’re not going to be at your most graceful (or most tolerant of frustration).
This unfortunate situation calls for straps that are easy-on/easy-off. Or at least something that’ll withstand sliding your mask up over your forehead. This brings us to our next desirable feature:
“Rugged” is a word that leaps more readily to mind when shopping for hiking boots, camping gear and pickup trucks. But it’s definitely something you want in your sleep mask, too.
Once you’ve found the best one, you’re going to rely on it night after night. And a patchwork monstrosity held together by safety pins, duct tape and happy thoughts isn’t going to cut it.
And what if one of the eye cups falls out of your backpack while scaling Mt. McKinley? Or the headband gets damaged in a knife fight with a squirrel? (We don’t know how you live your life.)
Despite even the most robust durability, accidents happen. That’s why you should also invest in a sleep mask with replacement parts that are easy to find and order.
Of course, you’re also going to need a way to keep a long-lived mask clean. The simpler the better — you’re looking for better sleep, not another daytime chore (or shopping list of special cleaning solutions).
Your mask is going to go through a lot of heavy dreaming. Not to mention occasional eye grit, dead skin cells and — dare we say it — strands of sleep drool. (Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.)
This is no time to see the dreaded “Dry-Clean Only” tag. Isn’t that just the worst? When it’s cleaning time, you want a sleep mask that’s simple to wash with products you already use and trust. Nothing that’s going to irritate your skin, no special orders to place.
And especially no Dry-Clean Only tag. Uch.
Better Temperature Control
When you drift off to sleep, your body temperature drops a couple of degrees. The excess heat your body sheds gets trapped in your sheets, your comforter, your pillow (fortunately, there’s always “the cool side”) — and your sleep mask.
To avoid waking up sweaty-faced and frustrated, seek out a sleep mask constructed of natural, breathable materials. Silk is excellent (especially for those wrinkles); so are mesh fabrics, cotton and plant-based fibers.
Natural materials will also mitigate the chances of developing mask acne. Trust us, you don’t even wanna know about mask acne.
Yeah, we’re gonna say it: why should being unconscious keep you from looking good?
Just make sure that this isn’t your primary concern. A lot of trendy sleep masks aren’t designed with sleep-optimal construction or adjustable fit in mind. And nothing makes you look better than being well-rested.
This is what you’re after, right?
You won’t just want to focus on how well your sleep mask blocks the light and how comfortable it is. Consider your overall sleep, too: how quickly you drift off, whether you wake fewer times and how you feel in the morning. If you could change one thing about the sleep mask, what would it be?
Your mask should help you sleep better, period.
Sometimes our first choice isn’t always our best choice. If you’re dissatisfied with your existing mask and looking for an upgrade, don’t forget to consider the entire sleep package.
Making a list of the things that you don’t like about your existing mask can help prioritize the qualities that matter most to you in a replacement model.
Oh, speaking of replacement models:
Since you’re reading this (we’re doing our best to keep it interesting for ya), we’ll assume that choosing the best sleep mask available is a decision that’s important to you.
One final thing we’d like you to consider: you may not know how well a new mask is going to work (or even feel) until you’ve actually spent the night in it. Possibly even a few of them.
We go into every relationship with the best of intentions, but sometimes things just aren’t quite right. And there’s nothing you can do to force it.
Sleeping in a mask can take a little getting used to. But if it’s ultimately not a match for you, you’ll be glad you found a sleep mask with a no-hassle return policy.
Now that we’ve examined the importance of each of these criteria, let’s get down to the business of finding the mask best suited to your needs.
The Best Sleep Mask for You to Sleep Better
Is stress keeping you awake? Itchy eyes? Sinus problems? How about headaches? All of the above?
As we mentioned earlier, the perfect sleep mask is a very personal decision. But to make that decision easier, we’d like to present the best masks for a variety of different situations.
Manta WEIGHTED Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Anxiety sufferers
- Accessorizing with your weighted blanket
- Keeping your head from floating away
- Tension headaches
Have you ever wondered what the deal is with weighted blankets? It has to do with pressure therapy.
In a recent Mental Health America study, ⅔ of US citizens cited anxiety as the cause of their sleeplessness.(3)
What’s more, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, sleeplessness can cause an anxiety disorder.(4)
Do you see where we’re going with this? Right: we’re going nowhere, because this is just a vicious circle.
But swaddling a baby, cuddling up to a loved one or being the recipient of a warm hug triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. This stimulates the body’s release of serotonin and melatonin, which calms your nervous system and primes your body for deep rest.
If you want to try taking your relaxation to the next level with weighted therapy but don’t want to commit to a blanket, Manta’s WEIGHTED Mask is a great solution. It breaks the insomnia-anxiety cycle with a hug for your face. (But not like the kind in Alien.)
Since it uses adjustable eye cups like the other Manta models, it keeps all of that pressure off of your eyes and eyelashes, which can be a major issue with weighted masks. That means no blurry vision when you take it off, too.
It’s not as bulky as other anti-anxiety masks, since the evenly distributed pressure is directed to just your relaxation points. The added weight creates a seal against light creeping into potential gaps as well.
This weighted sleep mask is a bit front-heavy, so it’s not ideal if you’re a side-sleeper or prone to tossing and turning. And despite its customizable fit, if regular sleep masks feel confining to you, this may be a little overwhelming. Instead, consider something like Manta SLIM below.
***Handy Tip: If you do deep breaths while counting to destress, exhaling for longer than you inhale is another way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system!(5)***
Manta SILK Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Countering the effects of aging
- Sensitive skin
- Avoiding mask acne
- Holly Golightly cosplay
- Keeping crow’s feet from reaching size 12
If you’ve gotta spend ⅓ of your life in bed, might as well make it as extravagant as possible, right? At least that’s the philosophy behind Manta Sleep Mask SILK.
There are a ton of silk sleep masks on the market, but what makes this one stand out is the quality. The 22 momme mulberry silk prevents wrinkles and actually refreshes skin cells.
And just what the hell is a “momme,” you inquire? Rightly so; that’s just a term that identifies the density of the silk thread used. It’s kind of like thread count. By comparison, your typical silk sheets are 12-14 momme. Really nice silk sheets? 18-19. So you know that 22 momme is going to feel like gliding into a pool of whipped cream.
OK, enough about momme. Instead, let’s talk about how the material is naturally hypoallergenic and ultra-breathable. It’s also friction-free so it won’t snag your eyelashes or tug on the sensitive skin around your eyes. The sleek mask fabric won’t accumulate makeup residue as quickly, either.
Another nice thing about mulberry silk: unlike cotton and other natural fabrics, it won’t absorb moisture — that means it’s locked into your skin. That also keeps it dry if you’re a hot sleeper (no waking up to a sweaty mask!) and provides a nice cooling effect.
One of the downsides of silk masks is that the straps are usually too flimsy. Not so with Manta’s SILK. The 6-layer head strap provides optimal comfort and a durable fit that just feels secure — yet it won’t crease your hair.
This one also stands out from other silk masks in that it’s completely machine washable. That’s a big check-mark in the convenience column.
If you’re serious about spoiling your face with silky extravagance while simultaneously battling the ravages of time, SILK is a sound investment.
Manta SLIM Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Sleep mask beginners
- Daytime meditation
- Your bug-out bag
- Tossing and turning
Whether you’re having to catch 40 winks on the plane or you spend your nights sleeping in business accommodations across the globe, your best choice is something that won’t take up a lot of valuable carry-on space.
That’s why the narrow head strap of Manta SLIM Mask makes it perfect for travel or accompanying you to the office for power naps. It’s easy to store and so lightweight that it feels like you’re not even wearing a sleep mask.
That’s also what makes it first-class if you’ve had bad experiences with eye masks in the past. SLIM’s low-profile, compact design cuts out the bulk, while the eye cups keep unwelcome pressure off your eyes.
This one’s also great if you have kids who’d like to try a sleep mask. It has the look of an adult mask (gotta look mature at sleepovers, y’know), but the sleek design won’t engulf their face.
Even despite its customizability, though, this one still might feel a bit small. If you need a mask with more generous proportions, check out this next beast.
Manta MAX Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Long lashes
- Sensitive eyes or eyelids
- "What big eyes you have, Grandma!”
- Protecting your eye makeup
One of the things everyone agrees is their favorite about Manta masks is the spacious eye cups. But what if you need something even roomier for your lashes?
If you’ve got great big beautiful eyelashes (or extensions), Manta MAX MASK will keep you from feeling like you’re giving butterfly kisses to the refrigerator.
It isn’t just the world’s most difficult sleep mask to say three times out loud. (Try it, we dare you.) This tongue-twister provides 86% more eye space, which does a great job of protecting your makeup while traveling or catching a catnap at work.
The naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial fabric is optimal for delicate skin. And the eye cups are fashioned from a premium bamboo fabric that feels like cool, soothing, decadent cashmere — another plus for sensitive eyes.
And if you have a difficult time getting a proper fit because your face is… how can we put this delicately… more majestic, the design and generous eye cups allow you more customizability, allowing you to finally block all the light.
Manta PRO Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Side sleepers
- Hot sleepers
- Restless sleepers
- Experiencing how people sleep in the future
- Aficionados of the finer things in life
You value your sleep above all else. You want a no-expenses-spared, no-compromises experience. You won’t settle for less than the best of the best.
Meet your mask: Manta Sleep Mask PRO.
The mesh design and wild colors mean one thing: the most advanced sleep mask on the planet.
What makes it high-tech is that it uses advanced materials and ventilation for unmatched breathability. The ventilation holes and perforated materials allow 360° airflow — even the logo cutout in each eye cup is breathable. The ultralight head strap, too!
PRO’s interior is made of TACTEL®, a fabric that’s 2x as soft, 3x as durable and 8x faster drying than most fabrics. It gently guides heat away from your face to help regulate your temperature.
Sure, it’s colorful and cool. But where this one really stands out? It deviates from Manta’s standard models with unique C-shaped eye cups for unbeatable side-sleep comfort. The strap positioned above the ears (rather than over them) is another big plus for side-sleepers.
If you’re tired of a sleep mask that slides around your face and has to be readjusted every time you roll over, you’ll quickly become a fan of the anti-slip gel that holds the PRO in place. It’s just another of the added touches that make this one an excellent investment.
Manta AROMA Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Anxiety sufferers
- Lowering blood pressure
- People getting too old for this s%$@
- Scent enthusiasts
What’s better than a sleep accessory that uses one tactic to get you better sleep? You guessed it! (“One that uses two,” in case you didn’t.)
Excess light may not be the only thing keeping you awake. Manta AROMA Mask
adds the power of aromatherapy to 100% blackout to ensure those dreams are as sweet as they can be.
Lavender aromatherapy is scientifically proven to induce whole-body relaxation by stimulating scent receptors in your nose — which then communicate with your nervous system to deactivate your fight-or-flight response. Time to stand down from red alert.
AROMA’s true innovation is its laser-cut, perforated ‘scent vents’. They direct the lavender aroma directly to your nose, which means it takes a smaller dose to be effective. Each gram of lavender delivers more relaxation than it would by other means, plus it stays fresher for longer.
The package includes 5 individually-sealed sachets of 100% pure, AAA-grade dried lavender buds with no added oils. This provides an additive-free, pure, natural scent that lasts up to 30 times longer than other masks.
That makes it an extremely cost-effective means of adding all of the wonderful benefits of aromatherapy into your sleep regimen.
Manta STEAM Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Dry eyes
- Sinus headaches
- Dark undereye circles
- Midwest winters
- Contact lens wearers
Hey, have you got five minutes? That’s all it takes for the natural steam relief of
Manta STEAM Mask to kick in. (If you’re in a rush, though, you’ll be happy to note that it can take effect in as few as three!)
This one is designed not only to block the light but to moisturize those dry, irritated eyes, release muscle tension and relieve eye strain as well. That makes it perfect not just for winter’s low humidity, but contact lens wearers and those who spend their days getting way too much screen time.
It’s also perfect for sinus headaches. The moist heat therapy unclogs your tear ducts, soothes your eyes and induces relaxation — all at the same time. How convenient is that?
And those dark undereye circles? Let’s get rid of those too while we’re at it.
But let’s get back to winter again: the moist heat during the holiday season is like a sauna for your face. It erases the emotional effects of at least two phone calls from family members asking what time to be at your place for dinner (even though you quite clearly stated that in the invite).
And here’s something slick: when winter has passed and springtime allergy season rolls around, it’s time for the convertible. For less than the price of a replacement sleep mask, its warming eye cups are swappable with the COOL model below.
Manta COOL Sleep Mask
The best mask for:
- Allergy season
- Migraine sufferers
- Tired eyes
- Hangovers (seriously, you really gotta try it)
- Sending those eyebags packing
Allergy season introduces some new concerns. Aggravated sinuses mean you’re more sensitive, so you don’t want a lot of pressure on your face.
And a little something extra to soothe your irritated eyes? Yes, please.
Manta COOL Mask is the next best thing to cucumbers on your eyes at the spa (and 100% less messy). The cold therapy alleviates tension, swelling, pressure and irritation by reducing inflammation in the blood vessels around your eyes and invigorating your delicate eye skin — you’ll feel (and look!) refreshed and alert within minutes.
The coolness also constricts the vessels under your eyes, eliminating the puffiness. Farewell, eyebags, we won’t miss you.
Evenly-distributed cooling soothes your sinuses. And if you’re the type who kicks off the blankets before your first dream, this one’s extra cooling power will keep you from pulling off your mask while you sleep.
We’re even going to get a little radical and suggest you try this one out when you’re not anywhere close to going to sleep.
According to a recent eMarketer report, the average US adult stares at a screen for almost 8 hours per day.(7)
Folks, that’s more than the average person is sleeping. And four times as much screen time as experts recommend.(8) Yikes!
After a workday of eye-hopping from one electronic screen to another, rewarding your eyes with 10 minutes of cooling mask time after work is a surprisingly therapeutic start to your evening.
But, y’know — it’s still awesome for bedtime, too.
Manta SLEEP Mask
The best mask for:
- Budget-conscious shoppers
- Fans of vintage cars, denim jackets and vinyl
- Versatility for a variety of sleep situations
You research your purchases. You’re a savvy shopper who makes every dollar count. You’re also a fan of the classics.
This is the one that launched a thousand dreams, the John Cougar Mellencamp of masks: the original Manta Sleep Mask. There’s a reason that nearly 6,000 customers have given it a 5-star Amazon review. Like black t-shirts, muscle cars and Grandma’s homemade bread, it’s a timeless essential.
There’s nothing basic about the entry-level model. It’s got Manta’s innovative eye cups for deluxe comfort for your eyelids and lashes. Not to mention top-quality construction, adjustable straps and 100% light blocking.
It’s soft, breathable and, thanks to individually positionable eye cups, it’s infinitely adjustable for a personalized fit.
You’ll find Manta sleep masks with additional features, but all of them owe tribute to this original design upon which they’re based. Still a solid model for a great night of sleep, yet convenient enough for 40 winks at the office.
And like all Manta Sleep Masks, it carries one of the best warranties in the biz: a 60-day, hassle-free, money-back guarantee.
If you’re looking to try a dependable sleep mask without the bells and whistles, you can’t go wrong with this classic model.
So, now that you’re armed with the knowledge about the best mask for your environment, sleep style, season, face shape and personal preferences, let’s examine some added bonuses that’ll make you feel even better about your investment.
The Hidden Benefits of Masking Up
Light-blocking is undeniably your sleep mask’s main purpose. But the time and money that you’ve invested in making your decision have myriad dividends you may not have even considered.
- A sleep mask definitively tells your brain it’s bedtime. No more doomscrolling social media, no more episodes of whatever show you’re binge-watching, no more pages of the latest bestseller occupying your nightstand. It’s time to give your poor, overworked brain a chance to unplug and wind down.
- Your favorite pillow? It may be betraying you. (You’re right, this is exactly like Game of Thrones.) The wrinkles in the pillowcase that it’s wearing can, over time, cause wrinkles in the face that you’re wearing. Your sleep mask will guard the collagen in the delicate skin around your eyes.
- A sleeping mask is less expensive than blackout curtains. Not to mention that blackout curtains won’t help with the light creeping in around the edges from your neighbor’s obnoxiously overpowered security light. Or your partner’s reading light while they “...just finish this chapter.” (Yeah, right.)
- Even OTC sleep supplements like melatonin can cause unwanted side effects. But a sleep mask? That’s a 100% natural solution to getting great sleep.
- Your sleep mask will create a protective guard against dust, pet hair and other irritants, plus it’ll keep airflow and low humidity from drying out your eyes.
- You’re jet-setting all over the world, living the lifestyle that made you Instagram-famous. So you’re going to need a sleep mask that lets your circadian rhythms catch up with each new exotic international destination you land. A sleep mask is your cure for jetlag.
- Naps are a vital part of keeping you energized, and with a handy, portable sleep mask, you’re ready to doze anywhere. 40 winks at work? No problem!
- When you’re wearing a sleep mask you don’t just look serious about getting your sleep: you feel serious about getting your sleep. You are in the proper mindset to deeply doze, and you know The Sandman favors a team player.
We appreciate how much effort you’re putting into finding the right sleep mask for your needs (and custom face). It can be a little overwhelming, and we hope that we’ve made the decision a little easier for you.
Or at least gave you a few good points to consider that you hadn’t thought of before.
We’re confident that you’ll find just the right mask, whether you’re trying to catch 40 winks on the go or looking for that comfy night-after-night bedmate.
You know to look not only for something that blocks 100% of the light, in any position. You also recognize the importance of a sleep mask that’s adjustable, durable, made of breathable material and is easy to maintain.
And one that’s backed by a strong warranty in case it’s not The One for You. Especially one that doesn’t have that damn Dry-Clean Only tag.
And, of course, something that’s going to take good care of those great eyelids of yours.
(1) Mariana G. Figueiro & Mark S. Rea, “Preliminary Evidence That Light Through the Eyelids Can Suppress Melatonin and Phase Shift Dim Light Melatonin Onset.” BMC, https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1756-0500-5-221. 7 May 2012
(2) Jillian Ashley Blair Ivey, “7 Benefits of Sleep Masks.” Sleepopolis, https://sleepopolis.com/blog/benefits-of-sleep-masks/. Updated 9 Jun. 2021
(3) “More Than Just a Fad: 4 Ways Weighted Blankets Can Actually Help You.”Penn Medicine, https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/february/weighted-blankets. Accessed 3 Nov. 2021
(4) “Sleep Disorders.” Anxiety & Depression Association of America, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021
(5) “Does Your Body Temperature Change While You Sleep?” Sleep.org, https://www.sleep.org/does-your-body-temperature-change-while-you-sleep/. Updated 20 Nov 2021
(6) Christopher Bergland, “Longer Exhalations Are an Easy Way to Hack Your Vagus Nerve.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201905/longer-exhalations-are-easy-way-hack-your-vagus-nerve. 9 May 2019
(7) Insider Intelligence Editors, “US Adults Added 1 Hour of Digital Time in 2020.” eMarketer, https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-adults-added-1-hour-of-digital-time-2020. 26 Jan. 2021
(8) “How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Adults?” Reid Health, https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/screen-time-for-adults. Accessed 10 Nov. 2021